A promise is defined as: “a declaration or assurance that one will do something or that a particular thing will happen.”
Symbolism of the Promise Ring
In the case of the ‘promise ring’, the clue is certainly in the name. Often, a verbal promise comes with enough gravity to warrant something a bit more tactile. These rings serve physical representations of love, assurance and commitment. Unlike engagement and wedding rings, they are not tied to one particular ceremony. They can be used in various ways, as long as they accompany a heartfelt promise.
Most commonly, these rings are gifted to a significant other. They are often used as precursors to engagement rings, perhaps to those who want to show commitment in a different way. As promises can take various forms however, these rings are very versatile.
It isn’t only those in a relationship that could get treated to a promise ring. They can be exchanged between friends, in a similar way to the classic friendship bracelet. Alternatively, they could be gifted to a child by their parent as a promise of unconditional love. In fact, you don’t even need a partner to warrant a promise ring! Many people choose to buy one for themselves as their own personal promise. This might be in celebration of a life style change, the quitting of a habit, the keeping of an important secret, or a promise of abstinence to God.
So if you’re drawn to these gorgeous and understated rings, you’re in luck! Anyone can make a promise ring relevant and important to them.
History of the Promise Ring
The concept of presenting rings to demonstrate love and commitment is an age old tradition, dating back to the 16th century. The idea of a ‘promise’ ring however, has evolved over time. Initially, posy rings were the favourite choice to give to your sweetheart. Their name derives from the French “poésie”, meaning poem. A small section of a poem or any words of sentiment would be engraved on the inside of these charming rings. Nowadays, this style is still a popular choice for a promise ring, as the promise itself or the date it was made could be etched into the gold.
During the Victorian and Georgian eras, acrostic rings became more popular, serving a similar purpose. Acrostic rings spell out messages using the first initial of each gemstone they feature. For example, ‘Dearest’ could be represented by: Diamond, Emerald, Amethyst, Ruby, Emerald, Sapphire, and Tourmaline. ‘Adore’ could be: Amethyst, Diamond, Opal, Ruby and Emerald. You get the picture. These rings served wonderfully as a deeply personal gift, creating a bond between the giver and the receiver.
In more recent history, teenage boys have mimicked the ‘promise ring’ ritual by giving their girlfriends their high school ring. Too young to tie the knot but besotted enough to want to show commitment and affection? A promise ring is the perfect solution.
They have even entered mainstream fashion after being embraced by celebrity influencers including Mylie Cyrus, Kylie Jenner and the Jonas Brothers. The Jonas’ promise rings are openly representative of their promise to God to stay pure until marriage.
So…Can you use a promise ring to propose?
And if so, what is the difference between a promise ring and an engagement ring?
Remember the beautiful thing about promise rings: they can represent what you want them to represent. So, yes! They can be used to propose and can function as an engagement ring if you so choose. As you know, engagements are so personal, and can be catered perfectly to each couple. Some may choose to use a promise ring to engage purely for that beautiful ‘forever’ symbolism.
On the other hand, many use promise rings as a place holder before getting an engagement ring. This could mean one of two things: the couple is not yet in at the stage to get married (perhaps because of age of financial reasons) so a ring is presented to say “I promise that I am going to propose to you”. OR, the ring could be presented upon an official proposal, along with plans to look for an engagement ring together at a later date.
Styles of Promise Rings and How to Wear Them
Much like the fluidity of their symbolism, there are no strict rules when it comes to wearing promise rings. If they are intended as a place holder for an engagement ring then they are likely to be worn on the ring finger. This finger is known to have a vein which leads directly to the heart. Then they would be transferred to the same finger on the right hand. The only issue with this routine however, is the matter of resizing. If you intend to move your promise ring around, I would recommend you purchase one that can definitely be resized. Another option of course, is to wear the ring on your right hand from the start, leaving space ready and waiting for your future engagement ring!
If you’re looking for a bit of a different style, then promise rings don’t even necessarily have to be worn on the hand. Some choose to attach their beloved ring to a necklace to be worn as a pendant, while others might incorporate it in a charm bracelet. Again, there are no rules! It’s all based on whatever feels right for the individual.
When it comes to style, personal taste is the most important thing. Promise rings tend to be understated compared to flashy engagement rings. They might be a simple band perhaps, rather than a diamond solitaire. Those that signify love often feature motifs such as hearts and engraving (like we have seen with the posy rings). Claddagh rings and eternity rings are often chosen, both representing love in their own ways. Another popular style choice is for a promise ring to feature the birthstones belonging to each partner. Two gemstones set beside represent unity and a romantic closeness.
Promise rings featuring religious motifs are also common for those who are committed to their faith. Doves and crosses are both popular design features.
If you’ve got plans to commit to someone soon, or to make an important promise to yourself, then a promise ring could be perfect for you. With flexibility of styles and symbolism, the possibilities really are endless. A promise ring could be the most personal and heartwarming gift you ever give!